Tag Archives: African

WHO says most African countries to begin vaccination drives by end of March

Most African countries will kick-start their COVID-19 vaccination programs by the end of March as efforts to procure doses for the continent’s 1.3 billion people gather pace, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The world’s poorest continent faces logistical and financial obstacles to securing all the vaccines it needs, but the WHO-led COVAX facility has begun to bear fruit.

“This week Africa has been at the forefront of COVAX facility deliveries, finally, with almost 10 million vaccine doses being delivered to 11 countries as of this morning,” WHO Africa’s Matshidiso Moeti told a virtual news conference.

“We expect that around half of African countries will receive COVAX deliveries in the coming week and that most countries will have vaccination programs underway by the end of March.”

COVAX, also led by the GAVI vaccines alliance and other partners, plans to send about 1.3 billion doses to 92 lower- and middle-income nations, covering up to 20 per cent of their populations.

As of Thursday, Africa had reported at least 3,955,000 infections and 104,000 deaths.

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First case of South African variant confirmed in Ontario as province reports 1,969 cases of COVID-19

The province is reporting its first case of the South African variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B1351, in Peel Region.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the person infected had no history of travel and had no contact with a person who has been out of the country. 

“With the variant, it just tells you, we have to maintain strong vigilance in our measures, strong adherence to our case contact management,” he said Monday during a provincial COVID-19 briefing. But he also said the province is seeing some positive trends.

“We’re encouraged by the data right now; we’re encouraged that maybe our stay-at-home directions and our measures are holding the U.K. variants, and may be some of these other variants, at bay,” Williams said.

Williams says the province has seen a total of 69 confirmed cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K. He says the cases are spread out over a number of health units. 

Average case numbers dropping

In her update Monday, the province’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe told reporters the seven day rolling average stands at 1,889 daily cases, which is a drop from previous weeks. 

“Overall, there is reason for some optimism. We are seeing some impacts of this lockdown.”

Ontario is reporting 1,969 cases of COVID-19 Monday and 36 deaths after completing just 30,359 tests in the previous day.

The new cases include 961 in Toronto — which may be an overcount due to a data entry issue, the province noted — 330 in Peel and 128 in York Region.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province has now administered 341,900 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The province’s latest data shows 1,158 people are hospitalized with the virus, with 354 people in intensive care units. Of those patients, 260 are on ventilators. 

Another 2,132 cases of COVID-19 have been marked as resolved. 

A provincewide stay-at-home order remains in place.

230 LTC homes in outbreak

A total of 230 long-term care homes remain in outbreak, according to the province, with 14,616 resident cases, and 6,020 staff cases. The province says 14 more residents have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 3,543 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

Roberta Place says 63 people at the home have now died of the virus. There are a 49 active resident cases and 69 active staff cases, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed on Monday. 

The home is now facing a proposed class-action lawsuit from residents’ families who allege their loved ones were neglected by those charged with keeping them safe.

The unproven statement of claim filed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleges Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., failed to take basic precautionary measures to protect against the novel coronavirus 10 months after the pandemic took hold in Canada.

School return dates to be announced Wednesday

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he will announce on Wednesday the dates on which schools will reopen in the province.

“We want all students in all regions back to class,” Lecce said in a tweet on Monday.

Lecce said the chief medical officer of health for Ontario has confirmed to the minister and Premier Doug Ford that he will finalize his advice on the matter on Wednesday.

“The Government will provide certainty parents deserve by announcing on Wednesday the dates for reopening,” Lecce said.

Earlier Monday at a Queen’s Park news conference, Lecce also announced that Ontario is expanding targeted COVID-19 testing and will allow boards to tap into student teachers to fill supply roles as more schools reopen amid the second wave of the pandemic. 

Provincial officials said earlier that the targeted testing will be available in all public health units where students have returned to class. They said they expect that Ontario could be doing up to 25,000 laboratory processed and 25,000 on-site, rapid antigen tests per week. 

The testing will be voluntary and an option for both students and staff, officials said.

In his announcement, Lecce also said he is hopeful but not certain that remaining schools will re-open on February 10. He said local medical officers of health will have a say in whether a given region moves ahead with reopening schools. 

Testing of international travellers begins today at Pearson

International travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Ontario starting today in a bid to stop contagious new variants of the virus from further infiltrating the province.

The provincial government announced the plan on Friday, the same day the federal government announced a similar program that’s to take effect in the coming weeks.

Premier Doug Ford praised the prime minister for announcing the new federal testing plan, but said Ontario would conduct its own traveller testing until Ottawa’s program begins.

The testing order comes into effect today at Toronto’s Pearson International airport, and will also eventually apply to the province’s land border crossings to the United States.

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African Americans in Georgia wary of returning to work as community struggles with impact of COVID-19

“Why is it the barber shops? The bowling alleys? It’s a bit strange.”

Kebbi Williams has some pointed questions for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over the reopening of non-essential businesses in the state last week.

Georgia was one of the last states to impose a stay-at-home order and shut down non-essential businesses in early April to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and is among the first to start lifting these restrictions.

As of Friday night, the state had around 27,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and 1,167 deaths. The seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed cases has been declining since April 20, according to the state department of health.

“I wish that the governor would just chill out, and let this thing fly, and then everybody can go back to work, not just the front line, who are mostly black in this situation,” he said.

Williams is a Grammy Award winning saxophone player who runs a music mentoring program for inner city kids in Atlanta, which has been put on hold because of COVID-19.

Grammy Award winning saxophone player Kebbi Williams has put his music mentoring program for inner city kids hold because of COVID-19. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

He says he understands people need to work to make ends meet but worries those same people are being put in an unfair position to have to choose between exposure to the novel coronavirus and feeding their families.

In the United States, a higher proportion of African Americans and members of the Latinx community (a non-gendered term used to describe people of Latin American origin) work in the service industry than other population groups, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics.

In a demographic breakdown of 2018 labour force statistics, it found that 24 per cent of employed African Americans and 24 per cent of Latinx workers worked in service occupations compared to 17 per cent of Asian workers, and 16 per cent of employees who identified as white.

WATCH | As Georgia begins to lift restrictions, some residents worry it’s too soon to return to work:

Georgia’s black population has been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and is putting a spotlight on health care and economic inequality in the state. 1:59

African Americans disproportionately affected by pandemic

Kemp allowed some sectors of the economy to start reopening last Friday and lifted the shelter-in-place order May 1 for all but the elderly and “medically fragile.”

Many of the businesses that reopened, including nail and hair salons, restaurant dining rooms, move theatres, gyms and bowling alleys, are service based.

“We have a large amount of blacks that have the virus — why, why put us on the front line and just open up?” Williams wonders.

“It doesn’t seem like he’s thinking about us.”

Willie Edwards says he reopened his barber shop in Atlanta because otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to pay his rent. (Katie Simpson/CBC)

Georgia is the latest state for which data has come out showing African Americans are being hit disproportionately hard by the novel coronavirus.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released this past Wednesday took a look at eight hospitals in the state. Of the 300 patients who needed to be hospitalized for COVID-19, more than 80 per cent were African American.

African Americans make up approximately 30 per cent of Georgia’s population.

People exercise at Gold’s Gym in Augusta, Ga. Gyms were among the non-essential businesses allowed to reopen last week. (Maranie Staab/Reuters)

Small county hit hard

In Dougherty County, a rural community of about 90,000 people in the southwestern part of the state, of the more than 120 COVID-19 deaths, 76 per cent are African Americans, according to the country coroner, Michael Fowler.

“I know these individuals in our community, and that’s why I’m fighting for our community. I’m tired of going and zipping up a body bag with somebody that I know,” said Fowler.

Dougherty County has the highest number of deaths in the state despite its small size and the fourth-highest number of cases per 100,000 people.

Michael Fowler, the coroner for Dougherty County, prepares to enter his small, rural morgue. The community has experienced the highest number of deaths in the state of Georgia. (Yaz Johnson)

Fowler does not criticize Kemp or question his decision. But with his small morgue already full, he’s urging people in his community to stay home.

“Money’s not that important, you can replace the house you lose, the car you lose, your job, but you can’t replace life. Life is too precious,” he said.

Governor Kemp stood by his decision during a news conference in Atlanta on Monday, citing historic unemployment numbers in the wake of the pandemic.

“I simply gave people the opportunity to reopen who literally were on the verge of losing everything they’ve got,” he said. “These are tough decisions. It wasn’t a mandate. They don’t have to do it, but they have the opportunity.”

WATCH | Salons, restaurants and tatoo parlors slowly resume business across Georgia:

Georgia allowed more non-essential businesses to open this week, easing weeks of COVID-19 restrictions, but many customers still chose to stay away. 1:58

Access to health care a factor

Cher Salmon, who owns a nail salon in Atlanta, says she’s thankful for the opportunity but would rather not have returned to work.

“It really wasn’t a tough decision, because as I said, I have no choice. I have to get to work. If there was a choice, I would be closed still,” she said.

Salmon is eight months pregnant. She applied for loans and grants in the hopes of being able to stay closed but did not qualify.

The pandemic is also bringing attention to the longstanding challenges African Americans have experienced in accessing health care in the U.S., according to Mack Willis Senior, an executive at the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.

“It’s like someone walking over to the wall and flipping a light on and exposing all of these health care disparities,” he said.

Willis is currently recovering from COVID-19, as are his two grown sons.

Mack Willis Sr., pictured third from left with his family, is recovering from COVID-19 and says the pandemic has shed light on the racial disparities in access to health care. (Mack Willis Sr.)

He wants this crisis to launch a conversation about how these disparities can be fixed.

“This is a picture that needs to be repainted, because there’s something not right about this.”

According to a December 2019 report by the Century Foundation, which describes itself as a non-partisan think tank, the “American health care system is beset with inequalities that have a disproportionate impact on people of colour and other marginalized groups.”

While gains have been made since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the report says, “disparities still exist across health conditions when comparing African Americans and whites, including maternal mortality, infant mortality, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other health issues.”

Only a ‘sliver of information’ so far

With COVID-19, “it seems there is a racial divide,” says Mohammed Ali, a family physician and associate professor with the faculty of global health at Emory University.

But he says more data needs to be collected before making definitive conclusions.

“It’s not clear what the drivers are that are going on, all we have is this sliver of information that’s showing major gaps,” Ali said.

“Traditionally, the African American and Hispanic experience in health care both in accessing it, in having insurance and … also how the health care provider treats you, those have always been quite different.”

A COVID-19 testing site in Conyers, Ga. There are indications the coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black Americans, but there is still a lot to learn about why. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/The Associated Press)

There is another factor at play here, Ali says.

“We think there’s an association with obesity and there’s a high presence of obesity and diabetes in the African American population.”

From his perspective, the decision to reopen non-essential businesses was premature.

He fears already hard-hit communities might suffer further if physical distancing rules aren’t followed precisely.

“I worry about those communities having big flares, so we’re probably going to see wildfires in counties and zip codes that just can’t afford it.”

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WHO pledges coronavirus support as African health ministers meet to plan response

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it would support the efforts of vulnerable African nations to prepare for a possible outbreak of coronavirus on the continent.

WHO pledged in a statement Saturday that it would support African Union Member States on a common preparedness and response strategy for COVID-19.

A group of African health ministers held an emergency meeting about the disease in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter Sunday that “only together, in solidarity” can it keep the people of Africa safe. 

WHO conducted a survey of nations to assess overall readiness for COVID-19 and found the regional readiness level in Africa was an estimated 66 per cent.

Officials from the organization have warned throughout the viral outbreak that countries with less developed health systems could be overwhelmed and insufficiently prepared to contain the disease on home soil.

Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, speaks to media about Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Geneva, Feb. 1, 2019. Moeti warned Saturday there are ‘critical gaps in readiness’ for a possible coronavirus outbreak in Africa, where so far there is just one confirmed case in Egypt. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone/The Associated Press)

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said there are “critical gaps in readiness for countries across the continent.”

“We need urgently to prioritize strengthening the capacities for countries to investigate alerts, treat patients in isolation facilities and improve infection, prevention and control in health facilities and in communities.”

So far just one case is confirmed on the African continent, in Egypt. 

Egypt Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said the person was a “foreigner” who is carrying the coronavirus but not showing any serious symptoms.

China has reported a total of 77,042 cases of the disease caused by the virus, including 2,445 deaths. Outside mainland China, there have been more than 1,700 cases in 28 countries, the WHO said

Few resources to bring citizens home

Countries across the world have flown their nationals home from China’s quarantined Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak that since January.

But no sub-Saharan African country has done so, leaving thousands stranded.

Governments across Africa have said they plan to send money to students to help with expenses. Cameroon said it was sending about $ 82,000 to help its citizens stuck in Hubei.

However, many including Senegal and Uganda, say they do not have the resources to look after coronavirus patients at home and their nationals would be safer in China where authorities have reported a dramatic drop in new cases in Hubei in recent days.

Margaret Ntale Namusisi holds a family album at her home in Mukono district, Uganda, during an interview Feb. 18 about her three daughters, who are quarantined in Wuhan because of the outbreak. Namusisi wants Uganda to bring her daughters home. (Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters)

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention last week called on governments to bring Africans home. But this has provided little comfort for those stranded in China or their families back home who have received little or no communication from their governments.

Uganda mother Margaret Ntale Namusisi’s three daughters are being quarantined at their university in Wuhan.

But nearly one month on, with no help from their government, they are now under lockdown in a crowded apartment with orders to stay indoors with the windows closed. Food, funds and morale are running low.

‘Has Uganda given up on us?’

“They are traumatized,” said Namusisi, who wakes up at 3 a.m. every day to talk to her daughters over the Chinese messaging service WeChat. “They ask, has Uganda given up on us?”

“We’ve gone to parliament, we’ve gone to the ministry of health, we’ve gone to the ministry of foreign affairs and taken them our petition to bring back our children,” said Namusisi

Roger-Michel Kemkuining, a Cameroonian, found out that his son Pavel had contracted coronavirus from a statement posted online by Yangzte University, where Pavel was studying.

The statement, seen by Reuters, said the university had informed the Cameroonian embassy and the parents, but that was news to Kemkuining.

Cameroon’s health ministry spokesman, Clavere Nken, confirmed that the family had found out via social media. He said he had since spoken to them by phone. Yangzte University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pavel is the only known African to test positive for coronavirus. He has recovered and was released from hospital on Feb. 10 but remains in isolation, he told Reuters.

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Facebook accuses ‘Putin’s chef,’ wanted in U.S., of targeting users in African countries

Facebook said on Wednesday it had suspended three networks of Russian accounts that attempted to interfere in the domestic politics of eight African countries and were tied to a Russian businessman accused of meddling in past U.S. elections.

The campaigns targeted people in Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya, Facebook said. They used almost 200 fake and compromised accounts to reach more than one million followers in the eight African countries.

All the networks were connected to “entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin,” Facebook said. Prigozhin has previously denied wrongdoing. His lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest Facebook accusations involving African countries.

Prigozhin has been indicted by U.S. special prosecutor Robert Mueller as a principal figure behind an alleged Russian “troll farm” accused of trying to sway elections in the United States with covert social media campaigns.

In some of the African countries, the Russian-run networks worked with local citizens to better disguise their origins and target Internet users, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia,” he told Reuters. “It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation.”

Facebook declined to identify which local people or organizations had worked with the accounts or which companies it had connected to the activity and Prigozhin, a catering tycoon nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of banquets he has organized for the Russian leader.

Ties to Wagner Group alleged

But researchers at Stanford University who worked with Facebook on its investigation said the companies included the Wagner Group — a firm of military contractors that sources have previously told Reuters has carried out clandestine combat missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Ukraine and Syria.

Reuters reported last year that the group had expanded into economic and diplomatic work in countries including the Central African Republic as part of a push by Russia to increase its influence in Africa.

Russian authorities deny that Wagner contractors carry out their orders and Moscow has repeatedly rejected Western allegations of election meddling. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wagner has no public profile and has never commented about its activities. Prigozhin has denied links to Wagner.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have vowed to step up the fight against political manipulation of their platforms after facing fierce criticism for failing to counter alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Despite the increased scrutiny, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by Russia and other countries who they say may still attempt to sway the result of next year’s presidential contest.

The campaigns shut down for meddling in Africa had posted about local news and geopolitical issues, as well as sharing content from Russian and local state-controlled media, Facebook said.

Some of the accounts were active as far back as 2014.

They also spent money on advertising, although Facebook estimated the total at less than $ 90,000 US. The paid social media advertising markets in many African countries are still small.

Researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory, the research lab at Stanford University, said the networks used a variety of techniques across the different African countries.

Some accounts supported a specific party or candidate, they said, while others backed multiple figures. In other cases, the pages appeared geared towards building support for Wagner activities or Russian deals for natural resources.

In Sudan, said Observatory Research Scholar Shelby Grossman, “the tone has been generally supportive of the government, but not transparently so. It does suggest the strategy is very different across countries.”

The activity marks a shift from the previous alleged efforts by the Internet Research Agency to target U.S. voters, said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former security chief and now head of the Stanford Internet Observatory.

The “franchise” model of working with local people in target countries makes the activity more difficult to detect, he said, and may have been developed to circumvent a move by Facebook to publish the locations of administrators of some political accounts.

The action over the African countries was Facebook’s second move against groups it linked to Prigozhin in a week. Last week, Facebook said it had suspended a network of 50 Instagram accounts it linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, an organization U.S. prosecutors say was funded by Prigozhin to attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.

Putin has been looking to strengthen economic ties and increase exports of military equipment and weapons to the continent, last week hosting dozens of African leaders at a summit in Sochi.

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African leaders to launch continent-wide free trade zone

Several African heads of state gathered in Niger’s capital Sunday to launch a continent-wide free trade area that represents an estimated market of $ 3.4 trillion US.

The African Continental Free Trade Area aims to create a single unified market for the continent’s 1.3 billion people and to boost economic development.

Plans for the free trade zone received a boost last week when Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, became the 25th country to ratify the trade agreement.

The general agreement has been signed by 54 of Africa’s 55 countries, with only Eritrea not signing up. Eritrea did not sign because of its long-running conflict with Ethiopia, but with a new peace accord, Eritrea has asked to join trade talks.

The location of the zone’s headquarters and a timeline for the start of trading are expected to be announced at the African Union summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

The goal of the new free trade area is to significantly increase trade within Africa. Currently, African countries conduct only 16 per cent of their trade with each other, compared to 65 per cent among European countries, according to the African Union.

Africa already has several smaller regional trading areas, including the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community, the West African Economic Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Many hurdles remain to creating an effective continent-wide trading area, including a lack of transportation infrastructure and border restrictions.

Another item to be discussed at the African Union summit is security in Niger and the surrounding Sahel region, which has seen a rise in jihadist violence.

The G5-Sahel security group, made up of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, was expected to encourage AU leaders to press the United Nations for more support fighting extremist violence.

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Israel PM freezes UN deal to send African migrants to Western countries

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was putting on hold an agreement with the UN refugee agency to relocate thousands of African migrants to Western countries.

Hours after announcing the deal, which was opposed by right-wingers as it would give thousands of migrants the right to stay in the country, Netanyahu posted a message on his Facebook page saying he was putting it on hold until further review.

According to the agreement, about 16,000 of 37,000 African migrants who entered the country illegally would be relocated to Western nations while others would be allowed to stay in Israel.

‘Developed countries like Canada’

Netanyahu had named Canada, Italy and Germany as some of the nations that would take in the migrants — although those countries appeared not to have been informed of the plan.

“This is a unique agreement between the UN commissioner and the state of Israel, that takes 16,250 people out, takes them out to developed countries like Canada, or Germany and Italy — that is the commitment the UN High Commissioner has made — to organize it and even to fund it,” Netanyahu said on live television.

Outside Israel’s parliament, Eritrean migrants wear chains to mimic slaves at a January protest against the government’s policy to deport African asylum seekers from Israel. Hebrew signs read, ‘No for deportation, Rwanda equal to death’ and ‘Slaves for sale.’(Oded Balilty/Associated Press)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement confirmed an agreement was signed with Israel, but did not name the countries that would accept the migrants.

A spokesperson for the German Interior Ministry said he was unaware of any plans to resettle African migrants from Israel to Germany.

And in Italy, a foreign ministry source said: “There is no agreement with Italy in the context of the bilateral agreement between Israel and the UNHCR.”

Jean-Nicolas Beuze of the UNHCR in Ottawa told CBC News that Canada has not made any formal commitment but things are “being discussed.”

Men and women from Eritrea and Sudan hold a silent protest in February outside the Rwandan Embassy to Israel in Herzliya.(Derek Stoffel/CBC)

“Canada has an agreement with us to resettle 10,000 people this year, so we could well imagine that a number of them could come out of Israel, but for the time being there is nothing I can tell you in terms of details with respect to the numbers or the timeframe,” he said. 

Beuze added private sponsors who have been bringing over Eritrean and Sudanese from Israel will continue to do so.

Canada has an arrangement with Israeli authorities to suspend the deportation of individuals who have private sponsorship applications with Canada until they are processed, said Hursh Jaswal, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

There were 1,845 applications being processed at the end of last year, Jaswal said.

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West African country reports death from Lassa fever

Authorities in Guinea announced the first death from Lassa fever in more than two decades Thursday, heightening anxiety about another hemorrhagic fever in the West African country where an Ebola epidemic first emerged.

The Ebola outbreak in late 2013 went on to kill more than 11,000 people in part because local authorities and the international community were slow to act when cases first popped up in a rural part of the deeply impoverished nation.


Lassa fever has similar symptoms as Ebola, starting as a fever with aches and pains it can progress to headache, vomiting and diarrhea. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

In a government statement, health authorities confirmed that at least one person was dead and more than two dozen others had been monitored for possible symptoms. However, critics questioned why the government was only now making the news public when the victim died Jan. 11.

Further complicating the situation was the fact that the Guinean citizen died across the border in Liberia — the same way that Ebola initially spread. Authorities, though, said there was nothing to fear.

“None of the patient’s contacts in Liberia became sick or tested positive for Lassa,” the statement said.

There is no approved vaccine for Lassa fever, whose symptoms are similar to Ebola. After starting as a fever with aches and pains it can progress to headache, vomiting and diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization, severe cases can cause victims to bleed from the mouth and nose.

Like Ebola, Lassa fever can be spread through contact with the bodily fluids of sick people. Humans also can contract it from eating food that has been tainted by the urine or feces of rodents.

Dr. Sakoba Keita, who coordinated Guinea’s national response to the Ebola outbreak from 2014-2016, told private radio station Espace FM that the new Lassa fever case was the country’s first known one since 1996.

The disease, however, has long existed in West Africa. Nigerian authorities have reported more than 440 suspected cases throughout the country so far this year, according to the non-governmental organization known as ALIMA. At least 40 people are believed to have died from Lassa fever there. 

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African migrants injured in drive-by shootings in Italy

A man opened fire on passersby in the central Italian city of Macerata on Saturday, injuring several African migrants, police said, in an attack that appeared to be racially motivated.

The shootings happened just days after the dismembered body of an 18-year-old Italian woman was discovered hidden in two suitcases near Macerata. A 29-year-old Nigerian migrant has been arrested in connection with her death.

Local media reported that at least six migrants including one woman were shot by a man driving around the city, located about 200 kilometres east of Rome, and firing from his car window.

“Shots fired in Macerata. People injured. Police operation under way. Stay out of the way and avoid open places,” the police said on Twitter. Shortly afterwards, police said one man 
had been arrested.

Local man apprehended

State television Rai said the suspect was a white Italian man who came from Macerata.

The website of newspaper Corriere della Sera said a man fired from a car window at two young African migrants shortly after 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) Saturday, wounding one of them. A short while later two other migrants, including a woman, were shot.


Italian nationalist Luca Traini was arrested by police in connection with the shooting. (EPA-EFE)

It was not immediately clear how serious their injuries were.

Right-wing politicians campaigning ahead of national elections on March 4 leapt on the gruesome death of the teenager Pamela Mastropietro to promote their anti-migrant message.

A preliminary postmortem on the teenager could not immediately identify her cause of death. The Nigerian suspect, who was denied asylum last year but has remained in Italy, has refused to talk to police.

Macerata Italy

The mayor of Macerata urged people to remain indoors after reports of drive-by shootings in the city of about 43,000, about 200 kilometres east of Rome. (Google Streetview)

“What was this worm still doing in Italy?” Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, wrote on Facebook, accusing the centre-left government of responsibility for Mastropietro’s death for allowing migrants to stay in the country.

“The left has blood on its hands,” he wrote.

Magistrates say witnesses saw the Nigerian suspect carrying the suitcases that were later found to contain the teenager’s body. They also found blood-stained clothes and knives in his possession. 

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South African child surprises researchers by showing no signs of AIDS years after treatment

A South African child born with HIV has surprised experts by appearing to be effectively cured of the AIDS virus after just a year of treatment, followed by 8½ years drug free.

Patients with HIV would normally need to stay on antiretroviral (ART) drugs for the rest of their lives to keep AIDS at bay. But this child, still off treatment and now almost 10 years old, has no signs of the disease.

This and other recent, isolated cases of remission have given additional hope to the 37 million people worldwide infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Yet experts urged caution, saying the case is extremely rare and does not suggest a simple path to a cure.

“It’s a case that raises more questions than it necessarily answers,” said Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), which is holding its conference in Paris this week. “It does raise the interesting notion that maybe treatment isn’t for life. [But] it’s clearly a rare phenomenon.”

Over 19 million people on treatment

The child, whose name and gender were not disclosed, was part of a clinical trial in which researchers were investigating the effect of treating HIV-positive babies in the first few weeks of life, and then stopping and starting the ART medicines while checking whether their HIV was being controlled.

The United Nations HIV/AIDS agency said last week that 19.5 million people — more than half of the 37 million patients with HIV — are now on treatment. The vast majority of patients with HIV suffer an increase in the amount of the virus circulating in the body if they stop treatment, but this child was different, the South African researchers said.

“To our knowledge, this is the first case of sustained virological control from a randomized trial of ART interruption following early treatment of infants,” they said in a summary of findings presented at the IAS conference on Monday.

The baby contracted HIV from its mother. Treatment with ART started when the baby was almost nine weeks old but was interrupted at 40 weeks when the virus had been suppressed, and the child was monitored regularly for any signs of relapse.

“At age 9.5 years, the child was clinically asymptomatic,” the researchers said.

Sharon Lewin, an HIV expert at the University of Melbourne and co-chair of the IAS’s HIV Cure and Cancer forum, said the case raised possible insights into how the human immune system can control HIV replication when treatment is interrupted.

Yet in terms of the scientific search for a cure for HIV and AIDS, she told Reuters, it appeared only to confirm previous reports of similarly rare cases.

“We know that very rarely, people who have had treatment and stopped it are then able to control the virus.”

Swaziland reduces infections by almost half

On Monday, the U.S. government announced significant progress in the fight against the disease in the country with the world’s highest prevalence of HIV —Swaziland. 

In a statement, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), said the HIV epidemic is “coming under control” in Swaziland, as new infections in the tiny southern African country have nearly halved among adults since 2011.

France AIDS Conference

The president of the International AIDS Society, Linda-Gail Bekker, said on Sunday that potential cuts by the United States to HIV research could put the fight against the virus in danger. The society is holding its annual global conference in Paris. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

The statement said the southern African nations of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe also “demonstrate significant progress” toward controlling the epidemic.

The four countries are among 13 with the highest HIV rates where PEPFAR has been focusing its efforts.

The White House’s 2018 proposed budget would reduce funding by about $ 1 billion US to PEPFAR, which supports antiretroviral therapy for over 11 million people, many in sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s.

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